Under New Management

Welcome to Plunged in Debt! If you’ve been here before, this is the big change that Catherine mentioned last week. You may notice that things have changed slightly as this website is under new management of District Media Finance LLC.

District Media Finance LLC is a family-owned personal finance blogging empire, ranging from basic to more advanced finances. We are dedicated to educating, encouraging and inspiring our readers to reach their greatest potential by improving their finances and ultimately living their dreams. We believe that anyone can take control of their finances, live authentically and freely in their relationship with money and ultimately create more good in the world.

We plan to continue on what Plunged in Debt offers to readers, as a personal finance blog and Catherine will still be around as one of the writers. Please welcome Amanda, who will be on-board here as one of the writers too. You can check out her first post here.

Be on the lookout for some exciting and good changes in the following months!

Could You Handle a $1000 Emergency?

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

I feel like most people who are involved in the personal finance niche, either as a contributor or reading admirer, may not necessarily follow within these statistics but the fact is that 2/3 of Americans making between $50k and $100k wouldn’t be able to handle a $1000 emergency. The statistic is even worse for those making less than $50k, shooting up to a staggering 75% not being able to handle the $1000 emergency. One would assume though if you’re making over $100k per year you’d have absolutely no problem coming up with $1000 but the fact is that 38% of these earners still say they’d struggle to find $1000.

I Couldn’t Handle a $1000 Emergency

Though these statistics are quite alarming to read, the fact is that it wasn’t that long ago I put myself in this group of people and I totally understand how it’s possible. Five years ago coming up with $1000, no questions asked, would mean knocking on the door of the bank of mom and dad. Despite our well-earning incomes we had no savings. Part of it was my mentality. I couldn’t justify having money sitting in a bank account, seemingly doing ‘’nothing’’, when we owed so much money. At the time I was relatively fresh out of my second degree, newly married and a new homeowner. Why, when I owed over $100,000 in various non-mortgage debt would I sock away cash for a rainy day? Well I get it now.

When I went off on maternity leave, losing 60% of my net income and for the first time I felt financial constraint I hope to never experience again, I realized how close we were living to the edge and how stupid and dangerous it was, especially with a child now in the mix. It took us almost a year but soon enough we managed to save that $1000. It was a life changing moment, really. We no longer had to rely on someone if there was an emergency. We were educated adults, parents, who no longer had to rely on anyone to temporarily bail us out if something happened and it was a glorious feeling.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Just Start Saving?

It seems easy. You’d think after people read an article like this that they would smarten up and just start saving but the fact is that finances are complicated. In order for us to save that $1000 we needed to not only ‘just start saving’ but do a complete overhaul of our finances. We needed to learn to budget. We needed to face big scary personal numbers. We needed to get real. And it was hard. Really hard. It took us almost the entire year to get a good thing going where we were comfortable in our budget. We make colossal errors and screwed up more times than not, but we stuck with it because we realized it was the only way to live. Not everyone understands this though. Humans are naturally averse to taking the hard road. It seems much easier to live with your head in the sand and pray an emergency never happens than deal with the hard reality that is your own personal finance.

Aside from just being difficult there are other, real things, working against people saving too. Lack of proper living wages, low to minimal raises, growing expenses are all working against people in terms of both short and long-term savings. It is possible though. Hard, but not impossible. There are a ton of resources out there to help you get started. The Simple Dollar, Money Crashers, and Gail Vaz-Oxlande all have great posts about getting started.

Living a life assuming an emergency will not happen to you is not realistic. We’re all prone to them. While you should eventually build your savings beyond $1000, most experts agree that this is a great starting point. While we’re actively paying our debt off, we will keep a modest emergency fund of $1000-$1500 cash on hand but will increase once we’re debt free, also remembering that emergency funds aren’t a one-size-fits all.

Could you handle a $1000 emergency? Was there ever a point where you couldn’t?

An Announcement: Big Changes are Coming

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgLast week, I mentioned to stay tuned as some changes were coming and I’m here to explain one of them. As most of you know, or, at the very least, can appreciate, blogging is a lot of work. Writing is fun but all the ‘’behind the scenes stuff’’ can be exhausting. The emails, the hosting issues, the deadlines can be very time consuming. There’s always something to do, which is why there are so many bloggers who burn out and eventually stop.

I have been blogging on and off around the web for the past eight years. I’ve always enjoyed the release of thought process and interaction (especially in the PF niche) but hate the feeling of managing everything else. It’s all necessary as a site owner though. You need to post or you readership dies, you need to fix things or the site can crash or whatever, you get my point…basically I enjoy the writing but hate everything else- so I’m not doing it anymore.

I have a lot going on in my life right now with the whole being a mom, wife, full-time employee thing. Especially as Maria gets more and more involved in her own activities my personal time is less and less and I was starting to resent the blog. I could no longer give it the attention it needed, or deserved.

At the end of last year I brought Kayla on to help with some things, and she’s been terrific but it wasn’t enough. She was doing everything I could as of her but I still wasn’t satisfied with the amount I still needed to do. I thought about it for a long time, chatted with Mike and eventually decided to give the blog up. I still wanted to write but didn’t want to deal with everything else so I found someone who did.

I asked around, and consulted with a few people before finally approaching J (from Budgets are Sexy) about using his massive list of contacts and resources to find someone who may be interested in taking the blog over, with the contingency of keeping me on as a writer. My inbox immediately blew up. J said it was his most popular inquiry to date and I talked to a lot of people before finally deciding to work out a deal with James.

James is a popular guy in the personal finance niche owning and managing many popular blogs such as Dinks Finance and Clever Dude. Given his reputation and already established relationship with Kayla, it just clicked. We chatted and worked out a deal. So, it’s bittersweet, this little blog, which I started on my maternity leave back in 2012, is now owned and managed by James.

Having said all this, not too much will change around here. James in on board, Kayla is still around, I’ll still be here writing every Monday along with welcoming Amanda another day through the week.

My story will still be told but now I have more time for me, my family and everything else I want to do in life. When you literally only have a few hours a week to yourself, using it all to manage a hobby isn’t balance. I have found a way to scratch that writing itch but leave the blogging stuff to someone much more experienced than I, so I’m happy.

I’m excited to see what James and Kayla have in store while allowing me so sit back and relax (as much as one can with a rambunctious toddler around). So thanks James. Welcome Amanda. I’m sure you’ll both help breathe a little life into this little blog.

 

How is everyone else doing? Any other big changes in your lives? Did anyone notice how I said changes are coming but only outlined one? You’ll have to wait for me to disclose even more surprises!

Major Finance Industry Trends to Watch For In 2016

coins-912718_1280The year 2016 is shaping up to be a stable, if somewhat confusing, time for the various players in the international finance industry. Many new trends are emerging that are sure to radically alter the atmosphere of international financial growth and investment, some for the better and some whose ultimate effects are still being studied.

While the ultimate health of the industry is in good repair, there will certainly be a period of adjustment and observation while other, less healthy segments are renovated or perhaps pruned away. One thing is certain: Change is in the air, and it’s a good idea to be aware of this fact.

The Role of the Chief Operating Officer Is Being Redefined

One of the most interesting new developments in the financial industry is the continuing redefinition of the role of the individual at the top of the organization, the Chief Operating Officer (COO). In fact, the role of this formerly all powerful officer is being phased out altogether in many international investment firms while, in others, the responsibilities of this position are being merged with other top corporate ranks.

While many companies, such as Fisher Investments among others, still retain this individual, others have done away with the title altogether. Many have merged the roles of COO and CFO (Chief Financial Officer) in a bid to downsize the corporate hierarchy of their organizational structure. This new trend toward streamlining corporate operations is one that seems set to remain the norm for some years to come.

Investment Firms Are Continuing To Increase Their Use of Big Data

More and more international investment firms are continuing to rely on “big data”. In fact, the great majority of firms are increasing their use of, as well as their reliance on, big data as their primary source of industry knowledge and policy formation. This is a trend that is set to increase until it becomes the norm for all reputable international investment firms.

Meanwhile, this growing trend is also set to redefine the role of the CFO of most large investment firms, as this officer will more often than not be placed in charge of analytics. This trend will ultimately reinforce the CFO’s position as de facto head of the company, and it may not be too much longer before most investment firms, such as FI and many others, recognize this trend on a legal as well as merely operational basis.

More and More Data Will Be Transferred To the Cloud

Perhaps the largest and most influential trend that will reshape the international financial industry throughout the course of 2016 will be the fact that more and more data will be transferred to the cloud. This means that more data concerning the company’s financial and legal transactions will be accessible directly from the cloud.

This is a development that has taken its time in coming. At the moment, slightly less than 20 percent of the world’s major financial investment companies utilize the cloud to store their operational data. However, the major upgrades in security and accessibility that the cloud can provide are proving more and more irresistible for major corporations in all segments of industry to argue against. As a result, cloud based operations are sure to become more prevalent in the very near future.

Stay Tuned…

I haven’t been around much but there’s good reason, all of which you’ll find out about very soon so stay tuned!

Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to follow me on my new Twitter account too @cmacleanrdh

Avoiding Rental Scams

6242791556_8525b06d76_zThe rental market is increasingly competitive, with more and more choosing to rent instead of buy in today’s housing sector. If you’re looking for a rental, you’ve no doubt been struggling with the frustrating challenge of getting your name on the lease of any apartment, let alone the home of your dreams. Navigating the world of rentals is no easy task, and with nefarious schemers coming through the woodwork on a daily basis, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rental scams. If you’re looking for a new place and want to ensure you don’t get scammed by opportunistic con artists, keep these safety tips in your arsenal.

Understand What’s Reasonable

Competition drives up price, but greedy individuals may try to pull the wool over your eyes and charge a ridiculous rate. Do your research to find out the average rent rate in the given area. There are many ways to determine this, and a multitude of sites that can help you out. Try Rentometer.com to get a feel for what you can expect to pay before you even begin touring homes. This will narrow down your search on rental listings, and hopefully filter out the rates that are too high before you start. It’s also wise to be on alert for rates that seem too low—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

An Overly Eager Landlord

Of course you want your prospective landlord to like you, but if it’s almost too easy to rent the apartment from them, that’s a definite cause for concern. If they don’t ask for referrals, employment verification, or any other sort of tenant screening, it’s definitely cause for suspicion.

There’s No Lease

If the landlord is ready to sign an apartment over to you without a lease, be wary. The lack of a lease might indicate the lack of a property, and a scammer’s attempt to sell you on an apartment they don’t actually own. Even if the rental is legitimate, while law doesn’t require a lease, should anything unsavory happen during your tenancy, you’ll want the written and agreed upon provisions on your side for legal purposes.

Never Wire Money

You might consider this common sense, but desperation and the need for a home can drive people to do anything to secure the right rental. If a landlord ever asks you to wire money, run the other direction. This is almost always a scam, and can be approached in different ways. Whether they’re asking for a deposit, an application fee, or a full month’s rent, wiring money is akin to throwing cash out of your car window on the freeway—once you let go of it, it’s gone and there’s no chance you’ll get it back.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

It’s not always money that scammers are after. With identity theft rates on the rise, it’s essential to protect any sensitive information. It’s common for landlords to ask for your social security number in order to run a credit check, but be wary of handing your SSN over to anyone. Ask them to screen you with a legitimate screening company. If they balk at the suggestion, that’s a red flag. Ask them to run a credit check by Transunion SmartMove; with a certified service like this, they can get all the essential information they need, like your credit score, eviction history, and criminal record, and you can rest assured that your information is kept safe and secure.

Renting Sight Unseen

If you’re asked to send over a rent check without having first met the landlord or entered the apartment, be on red alert. Don’t rely on photos, and always try to visit the apartment in question before paying for anything. If you’re moving to a new city that’s too far for you to visit in advance, ask a nearby friend to check out the place for you, use a property management company to secure a place for you, or wait until you make the move out there to find a permanent place and rent a hotel room for a few days or weeks while you go through the process. The temporary higher cost of a hotel room is much less expensive than a scam would be.

If you’re in the market for an apartment or house rental, make sure you keep an eye out for rental scams and keep yourself protected by utilizing these tips.

Why We’re Paying Cash For Our Next Vehicle

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

The biggest things going on in our financial lives right now involve vehicles.

We’re hustling hard to have our current vehicle paid off by Christmas (a year early) and working hard to meet our savings goal of buying a second used car, in cash, by July. I’m happy to report both are going well.

Someone suggested to me recently that rather than buy a cheap, used, second vehicle we should use our cash as sizeable downpayment on a brand new car instead. As tempting as this is (who doesn’t love new, warranty covered, vehicles?), it’s not something we’re even entertaining.

For one, we want to buy this second car ASAP. June ideally, before we’re running to soccer games after work twice a week and I struggle to even get there due to lack of vehicle. If we were to do as suggested, putting a downpayment and finance the rest, it would mean we are taking on a second car payment before our other vehicle is paid off. I don’t want one car payment, let alone two, and even if we could pay it off relatively fast, I do not want to even fathom what might happen if something happened to one or both vehicles if they were both carrying loans.

Taking on a second car payment would definitely delay paying off our current vehicle and other financial goals. Not worth it.

The goal is to pay off debt, not take more on.

We’re at a point in our lives where we can’t live with one vehicle anymore. Even if we lived smack downtown with walking amenities almost at our fingertips, the fact would still remain both Mike and I need our own vehicles. He travels all over hell and creation for work and will leave town on a days notice. With a kid who’s involved in stuff and us traveling to family and friends all over the city, I can’t be left without a vehicle anymore.  That doesn’t mean I need brand new though.

We’re looking for a used vehicle but just because it will be well loved, likely have a decent amount of mileage on it, and in the range of 7-10 years old, doesn’t mean it’s write-off though. My first vehicle was a 14 year old car when I bought it for $750.00. In three years I put a total of $300 into the vehicle and sold it for $800.00. When it comes to cars, this is a pretty good deal.

While we’re looking to spend more than $750 this time around, I am confident our budget will find us what we’re looking for. Something safe, reliable and will serve our family the next few years.

Any tips for when we do go shopping in next few months?

How Poker Is a Game of Mathematics and Probability

cards-1255708_640For the occasional gambler, poker is a game of luck. Whether you play a few games in Las Vegas or in an online casino, you win or lose based on the cards drawn. If you win, great, but if you lose, it’s no big deal. For regular players and professional gamblers, poker is a lot more than a game of chance – it is all about the balance of probability and mathematics. So how can you beat the odds and make an income from playing poker?

24/7 Gambling

Most people who enjoy playing poker do so in an online casino. It is, quite simply, the most convenient place to gamble. Online casinos are open 24/7 and you can play as much or as little as you like. The disadvantage of playing online is that you can’t read your opponent in the same way as you could if you were playing a real game in person. However, as long as you use mathematics and probability to aid your game, this won’t matter one bit.

It’s a Simple Game

Poker is a relatively simple game. There are different variations of the game, but it is always played with a 52-card deck, virtual or otherwise. Your objective is to capture the pot of money bet by every player involved in the game. Players make a wager based on their hand and what cards they believe the other players in the game are holding.

A card game such as poker is all about the probability of one outcome versus another. In a 52-card deck, there are four suits and thirteen ranks in each suit, so your odds of drawing a suit are 1:4 and a Queen 1:13. Once a card has been played and is no longer in the deck, the odds change. So if you draw an Ace of Spaces as your first card, the odds of drawing another Ace diminish to 3:51.

The Key to Success

To be successful at poker usually requires a photographic memory and a mathematically tuned brain. Some people can win surprisingly high sums based purely on luck, but consistently successful poker players almost always have great skill at calculating the odds and betting accordingly.

Playing online casino poker games is never going to net you a fortune, but you can make a profit if you learn to read the cards and calculate the odds before playing a hand. Winnings are greater if you sign up for poker tournaments, but to do this you need to ‘buy-in’ and without a significant win, you will likely end up losing overall.

Becoming a Successful Player

There are many factors involved in being a successful poker player, but above all else, you must ensure you have funds in reserve to cover any losses you make. As many have realised to their cosy, as soon as you start chasing back-to-back losses, what may have started as a hobby will quickly descend into a compulsion.

Despite this, if you have the right skills and enough funds in the back, it is possible to make a viable income from playing poker, as people such as Dan Bilzerian can testify.

How to Compare and Find the Best Credit Card for You

-1If you’re like millions of other Americans and Canadians, you’ve no doubt had experience already with making online purchases and you probably used some form of a credit card to do it. But whether you already have a credit card of your own or not, do you know how to compare and find the best credit card for you?

Current Credit History

A good place to start the search for the best credit card for you is with your credit history. If you don’t know your credit score, find out. There are several companies that you can go through to find out what your credit score is. If more information is needed, check into your credit report. You can get it once a year from any of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Knowing your score can help you understand such things as why you’ve been turned down for a card, or why the interest rate on your existing card is so high. If you’re confused about the differences between a credit score and a credit report, Bankrate.com gives a detailed explanation of each.

Determine your Goals

What are the most desirable features for you in a credit card? If you pay off your balance each month, maybe you need a card with good rewards, like cash back or airline miles. On the other hand, if you carry a balance from month to month, you might be more interested in a low interest rate. Some cards offer rewards based on what you purchase with it, such as gas rewards based on the amount of fuel you purchase. Examine your personal spending habits to help you figure out a good place to start when looking for a card.

Compare

Once you know what type of card best suites your needs, the internet is a great resource for comparing credit cards. There are many different websites to choose from that will do some of the leg work for you if you do a search to find the best credit card offers.

Fees

Some cards charge fees for processing or activation. Always ask exactly what the fees are before you apply for the card. The time to find out is before you decide on a card rather than after you have already used received it and used it. Limit your Applications

Don’t apply for several cards at once, get them, and then decide on which ones to keep. Usually a couple is all you need and each time you apply, an inquiry hits your credit report causing your credit score to go down a little. If you are actively seeking several credit cards, lenders see you as a bigger credit risk and they may not approve your application.

Choosing which credit card to apply for doesn’t seem like such a daunting process when you break it down into manageable steps. Do comparisons, look over your options carefully, and do the paperwork. Before you know it, you’ll have a card in your pocket.

Have you done any of these things to help find the best credit card for you?

Can You Invest When You’re in Debt?

office-620822_640Who doesn’t have debt? If you don’t, then consider yourself extremely lucky. You are a rare breed in today’s world, because so many of us are struggling with debts; some of us more than others.

Yet a big question that a lot of people have is whether or not they can invest when they’re still in debt. So, is that even a possibility? We may be able to help you find out as we provide some insight into how some people choose to use their money in the investment versus debt payment battle.

So Many Choices, So Little Funds

If you’re like most people, you have lots of things you want to do with money, but you have very limited funds. When you are faced with debt, but you still want to do some investing, then you need to decide a few key things. Weigh your options and determine whether you are more interested in maintaining a good credit score, or whether you would like to benefit from compound interest. By categorizing your indebted accounts in order of highest to lowest interest rates, you can see which ones are most pressing and which are lower priority. That may help you determine whether you would like to work on paying off the debts, or whether you would prefer to make minimal payments while making some investments.

Don’t Forget Your 401(k)

Sometimes, people get so caught up with their debt accounts and investment options, that they totally disregard their 401(k) plan. In many cases, individuals can pull out a certain amount of money that their employer will have to match. That can actually end up saving you time in the long run, even though you may not be able to pay off all of your debt in as little time as you first thought. In fact, speaking of paying off that debt, you should sit down (with a financial planner if necessary) and calculate an expected time frame for getting that debt cleared away. It all depends on the amount of debt you have, how big your monthly payments are, as well as interest rates and type of debt. It’s always best to have as clear a picture as you can before you jump into any financial decision.

Analyze Your Actual Situation

It’s sometimes very easy for people to turn a blind eye and just pretend that the debt’s not that bad, or worse – not even there at all. Yet it is imperative that you get real with yourself and determine just how bad the debt is. Lay out all of the information in front of you and check out the individual interest rates, how much you need to pay each month just to maintain that debt amount, as well as how long you can foresee the debt being in existence. You should also take a look at your monthly expenses (car, rent, food, etc.) and see if there are any areas where you can cut costs.